While Minnesotans hunkered down Tuesday evening for the coldest
of the season thus far, a Minnesota conservation officer
dangerous temperatures, wind chills and freezing water to rescue
teenage boy from almost certain death.
Adam Bolkert, 19, of Winona was taking a shortcut home from
Learning Community School when he fell through the ice of
Mississippi River backwaters near Minnesota City, Minn.
Bolkert was able to pull himself from the river and found
refuge on a nearby island where he made a 911 call from his cell
to the Winona County Sheriff’s Office. They contacted Department
Natural Resources (DNR) Conservation Officer Tom Hemker of
knew the area the call came from, and possessed the right
make a rescue.
“The sheriff’s office has a program that brings up an address
GPS location on all calls, so they pinpointed the location
Minnesota City, which I know real well,” Hemker said. “With
vital information, and an airboat in tow, I knew we were in
Hemker made his way to the Pool
5-A landing on the river.
But with 4-6 inches of fresh snow, the airboat was frozen to
trailer. Hemker tried to free the airboat
by driving backwards and then slamming on the brakes, but it
Two Winona police officers helped push the airboat off the
while Hemker worked a pry-bar. “I could not have removed the
from the trailer by myself, I can’t thank those officers
With the sun beginning to set, temps dropping fast and the
starting to pick up, Hemker put the airboat into the river and
minutes later, found a cold, soaked, disoriented Bolkert.
“It was completely dark when I brought him in and the snow
swirling to the point where if the rescue had started a
vision would have gone from 50 yards to 10 feet,” Hemeker said.
couldn’t see anything. Absolutely amazing that Adam is
A waiting ambulance at the landing met the conservation officer
Bolkert. The teen was taken to Community Memorial Hospital in
“I was almost afraid to hear what the news was going to be when
picked him up, but last I heard he’s going to be fine,” Hemker
Hemker said it’s just another example of DNR having the
equipment for the job.
“Airboats are the only things can get you into and out of a
like that,” he said. “If DNR didn’t have them, I have no idea
would have rescued him. What an unbelievable piece of